Is it a Chess pie if it doesn't have cornmeal?

Discussion in 'Baker Banter' started by TristanSynth, Jan 12, 2018.

  1. TristanSynth

    TristanSynth New Member

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    I haven't been baking long and I only have 4 pies in my repertoire. Chess, Chocolate, Lemon-Chess, and Pecan. As I'm talking more about baking with my peers, and looking up baking things online, I'm noticing a bit of controversy on what separates a chess pie from a custard pie. There seems to be a consensus that it's the addition of cornmeal that makes the difference. But I've seen other recipes that only use flour, or replace the cornmeal with other ingredients I haven't even heard of. So what's your opinion? Do you think cornmeal is a required ingredient for a "true" chess pie? Or are there other ways to get its signature texture?
     
    TristanSynth, Jan 12, 2018
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  2. TristanSynth

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    Yes a chess pie without cornmeal is still a chess pie. The earliest recipes dating from mid-1770’s (Martha Washington Booke of cookery) chess pie did not contain cornmeal. A chess pie was originally referred to as a cheesecake without cheese curds. It wasn’t till the late 1800s that it was referred to as chess pie. None of these versions contained cornmeal. That is a more recent evolution of the pie. Still, many chess pie recipes today do not contain cornmeal as its coarse texture and weight is unappealing to many.

    The addition of cornmeal is most likely due to the regional climate and it’s impact on agriculture. Wheat does not grow well in the south due to the heat and humidity. So early American farmers cultivated corn instead. We adapt recipes to regional availability.

    Before insisting upon certain ingredients for authenticity one must look at the historic food record.
     
    Norcalbaker59, Jan 12, 2018
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  3. TristanSynth

    TristanSynth New Member

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    Thank you so much for this! I'm coming from the Music world, so crafts like baking are quite foreign to me. I don't do a lot of cooking at all, but I like to make pasta specifically, and I do some southern cooking. But nothing to brag about. So when trying to navigate through different opinions and things, I don't know what's science, what's history, and what's "snobbery", for lack of a better word. So thank you for clearing that up for me!
     
    TristanSynth, Jan 13, 2018
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